Exercise might not be as enticing to children as it used to be, but that didn't appear to be the case Saturday in a University of Nebraska at Omaha gymnasium.
Kids hula-hooped, jumped-rope, shot baskets, bounded through a bounce house and threw and booted balls in an event called Get Your Family Movin'.
Public health administrators say American children eat too much junk food, sit for too long in front of computers and televisions, and don't exercise enough.
The percentage of overweight children increased from 6 percent in 1976 to 17 percent in 2006, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The exercise festival, organized by UNO, the City of Omaha and the Douglas County Health Department, attracted 300 to 400 children, said Gail Braun, city grant coordinator.
Desiree Steffen, 5, wore black boots and a blue skirt. But she had no reluctance racing across the gym floor, kicking soccer balls with members of the UNO men's soccer team.
"That's the one who can balance the ball on his head," Desiree said, referring to UNO sophomore J.J. Zekpa.
Desiree's brother, 7-year-old Bowen, kicked around with the UNO players too. "I have played soccer, basketball, T-ball. Hey, Mom, what else?"
"Swimming," said his mother, Christine Steffen.
"And swimming," Bowen confirmed.
Freshman Logan Mendez, one of the UNO soccer players, remembered how he got his start in the game. He was a young boy when he went to a Grand Island, Neb., soccer complex with a buddy and the buddy's father. The father invited his son and Mendez to join the soccer game. The son had no interest, but Mendez wanted to play. The adults let him.
"I still talk to those guys today," Mendez said.
"Me and soccer were like this," he said, snapping his fingers to show how he and soccer immediately latched onto each other. "I think we were supposed to fall in love."
Among those who attended Get Your Family Movin' were NU quarterback Taylor Martinez, dancers, jugglers, NU volleyball player Lauren Cook and several former Husker football players.
Tyler McDade, 5, slowly walked up to the former Huskers, who were seated behind a table. Receiver Nate Swift, now a 26-year-old medical device salesman, began throwing a purple and yellow foam football back and forth with Tyler, who was game.
Tyler's little brother, 3-year-old Jordan, was less interested in the Huskers and more eager to put a hula hoop over his head.
Both boys wore T-shirts that read "Game On."
"Want a real high one?" Swift asked Tyler.
Swift fired the foam ball straight up. Tyler turned his back, looked toward the ceiling and watched the ball fall into his arms. He bobbled it, then snagged it.
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